Marijuana Withdrawal & Detox

When a heavy marijuana user stops taking the drug, their body may have a volatile reaction. This response is called withdrawal, which will likely be uncomfortable, and sometimes even painful, both physically and psychologically. Withdrawal is a natural part of detox, which is the body’s process of removing marijuana and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). If you are hoping to overcome a marijuana addiction, the first step is to detox from the drug. To detox as safely as possible, avoiding any complications or relapse, it’s best to detox at an accredited medical institution, such as The Recovery Village.
Addiction is a brain disease, meaning marijuana use chemically alters the brain to make it think THC is a normal substance. These chemical changes are why a person has uncontrollable cravings to use marijuana, and also why their body may have violent reactions when they stop using it. Such reactions are part of withdrawal, which occurs during detox, the body’s natural process of removing toxins from the system.

Withdrawal is a notoriously uncomfortable, often painful process. Many people find withdrawal so awful they would rather return to using drugs than continue detoxing in an effort to get clean. However, detox is a necessary step in recovery, so withdrawal must be experienced. With the help of a doctor in a medical detox facility, though, it’s possible to reduce the unpleasant side effects and make the process more manageable.

Withdrawal from marijuana is also known as marijuana withdrawal syndrome. Although some believe marijuana is not addictive, studies show marijuana addiction is possible, although it does have a lower occurrence rate than with other drugs. The younger a person starts using — especially in adolescence — the more likely they are to become addicted to marijuana.

Some symptoms of marijuana withdrawal syndrome include:

  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Shakiness
  • Fever
  • Low appetite or losing weight
  • Extreme sweating
  • Restlessness
  • Stomach pain
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Tiredness during the day

If you or a loved one experience these symptoms within several hours or a day of stopping using marijuana, you are likely going through withdrawal without realizing it.

The longer a person has used marijuana, and the higher dosage they consumed, the more severe these withdrawal symptoms will be. Symptoms are also heightened when someone quits cold turkey, rather than tapering off marijuana use. Suddenly quitting marijuana shocks the brain into thinking it doesn’t have an essential chemical, causing withdrawal reactions to occur quickly and in full force. Tapering consists of lowering a marijuana dosage purposefully over time to make withdrawal symptoms more bearable. 

Withdrawal will be the most comfortable in a medically supervised facility, where doctors and nurses can monitor your symptoms and help you with the discomfort. They may administer over-the-counter drugs to help with some more common symptoms, such as headaches and flu-like symptoms, or prescription medications to help with more serious symptoms such as tremors and insomnia.

The Recovery Village is an accredited addiction treatment facility that offers a suite of treatment services, including detoxification. While detoxing with us, our doctors and nurses will make sure you are comfortable and safe, monitoring your hydration and nutrient levels to ensure a healthy detox from marijuana.

marijuana withdrawal
While withdrawal symptoms may generally be the same for different patients, the experience will vary from person to person based on certain factors. Such factors include:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Weight
  • Family history of addiction
  • Personal history of addiction to other substances
  • Length of marijuana use
  • Frequency of marijuana use
  • Dosage of marijuana
  • Polydrug use

These factors often determine how difficult withdrawal will be for a person, and how long the process will take. While detoxing from marijuana shouldn’t take more than seven days, withdrawal symptoms — especially psychological ones — can linger for months.

During the first day of withdrawal, patients will begin to feel uncomfortable symptoms such as irritability and anxiety. They may also experience insomnia, or the inability to sleep. This can result in tiredness or a cranky attitude during the day. During the second and third days of marijuana withdrawal, patients typically experience the most severe symptoms. This peak withdrawal time will include heightened cravings for marijuana, and therefore an increased risk of relapse. Physical symptoms such as sweating, chills and stomach pains set in during this phase of withdrawal.

At roughly the fourth or fifth day, marijuana withdrawal symptoms should improve. Some symptoms may disappear entirely while others lessen in severity. Cravings for the drug, however, are often still remaining during this time. Although the body is adjusting to life without marijuana during this time, it takes much longer for the brain to adjust. This phase of withdrawal can last until the second week after detox started.
By the third week, most symptoms should have dissipated. Those who used the drug longer, however, may still experience some lingering physical withdrawal symptoms. Medications may be able to help lessen some of the psychological symptoms, such as anxiety and irritability. It’s not unusual for psychological symptoms and cravings to continue after detox; that’s why ongoing inpatient therapy is often a great next step after medical detox. 

Detoxification is the body’s natural process of removing marijuana and THC from its system. The body does this naturally, however, a person must stop using marijuana altogether for it to complete the detox process. As the body removes toxins, the brain will react to the absence of THC in the form of withdrawal. Typical marijuana withdrawal symptoms include shaking, sweating, headaches, muscle cramps and anxiety.

Places where detox is possible:

  • At home
  • In jail
  • At a free medical clinic
  • At rehab
  • In a detox center

Death is a rare, but possible, complication of detoxification and withdrawal. This is because during detox the body will use any means necessary to get THC out of the system. Vomiting, diarrhea, sweating and watery eyes are common examples of this. If a person experiences these symptoms repeatedly over several days or even weeks, however, they can easily become dehydrated. If dehydration becomes severe enough, it can cause potentially fatal seizures. Dehydration will also likely deplete nutrients, which the body needs to maintain optimal health.

For these reasons, it’s recommended a person looking to detox from marijuana or another drug do so in a medical facility where a doctor and nursing staff can supervise the process and make sure the person isn’t endangering themselves further. If you enroll at an inpatient rehab facility, detoxification is often the first step in the recovery process. If you do choose to detox at home, please be aware of the risks and educate a loved one about them as well so they may monitor you for any adverse symptoms. They should be with you during detox as well so they may call emergency personnel if need be.

If you undergo detox at a rehab center, such as The Recovery Village, detox will be the first crucial step in recovery from marijuana.

Overall, the treatment process at The Recovery Village is as follows:

  1. Evaluation
  2. Detoxification
  3. Treatment
  4. Aftercare Planning

Before we begin the detox process, our team will assess you and your relationship with marijuana to get a sense of how best to treat you for addiction. Evaluation will include drug tests, as well as mental health evaluations to see if you have any co-occurring disorders.

During detox, we will do our best to make you as comfortable as possible so you can heal accordingly. Following detox, we will begin to go through your customized treatment plan.

The major parts of treatment at The Recovery Village are:

  • Individual counseling
  • Group counseling
  • Family counseling
  • Alternative therapies, such as equine therapy or art therapy (varies by facility)
  • Psychoeducation on addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders

Nearing the end of your treatment, we will also begin to prepare an aftercare plan for you. Aftercare planning is an essential step in treatment because it empowers patients to continue their sobriety after they leave The Recovery Village. Aftercare planning arrangements include scheduling doctor appointments, counseling appointments and 12-step meeting membership for when you return home.

While some medications exist to help people detox from drugs like heroin and cocaine more easily, there is currently no specific taper medication for marijuana withdrawal. Doctors can administer medications that may treat individual symptoms, but there is no drug to help stop marijuana cravings or the withdrawal process in its entirety.

Alternative marijuana withdrawal syndrome remedies include:

  • Attending 12-step recovery programs
  • Meditation
  • Exercise
  • Healthy diet

Programs such as Narcotics Anonymous and Marijuana Anonymous are known for providing a sense of community and camaraderie among those in recovery. During the trying time of withdrawal, someone going through detox therapy may find an added level of comfort in the emotional support a 12-step program can provide. Being surrounded by recovery success stories is also motivation and can help keep someone on track as they detox.

Practicing mindfulness or meditation can also help provide a sense of peace and relaxation in stressful or painful scenarios. Meditation is a simple practice and requires no outside tools or knowledge. To meditate, simply sit or lay down on the ground and close your eyes. Breathe in and out, and notice your breath. Some people count their breaths as they meditate. Others focus on the feeling of their lungs expanding and contracting. Eventually, as this goes on, you’ll learn to let go of external thoughts and stressors. You may meditate for as long as you choose, but studies show even as few as three minutes of meditation per day can be beneficial.

Some also choose to repeat affirmations while they meditate. Affirmations are positive statements a person says about themselves that promote a positive mindset and outlook. Repeating affirmations such as “I am strong and I will overcome my marijuana addiction,” can help you feel relaxed, centered and capable of completing the task at hand.

Accompanying meditation with gentle, healthy exercises and eating balanced meals will also give the body the fuel it needs to fight withdrawal symptoms and help you recover sooner. Even taking a short, daily walk can make a significant different in relieving withdrawal symptoms.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Marijuana Withdrawal Is Real.” NIDA for Teens, National Institutes of Health, 2 Apr. 2015, teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/post/marijuana-withdrawal-real. Accessed 24 Mar. 2017.
O’Connor, Lynn E. “How to Get Off Marijuana.” Psychology Today, 22 Jan. 2014, www.psychologytoday.com/blog/our-empathic-nature/201401/how-get-marijuana. Accessed 24 Mar. 2017.
Marijuana Withdrawal & Detox
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Marijuana Withdrawal & Detox was last modified: August 7th, 2017 by The Recovery Village